Ghost Town of Sunbury, Georgia
Ghost Town of Sunbury, Georgia
|Ghost Town of Sunbury, Georgia
Once a thriving port on the Medway River south of
Savannah, Sunbury played a major role in the
All that remains of Sunbury
today is the historic Sunbury
Cemetery, roads and Fort
Morris State Historic Site.
The Sunbury Road
This historic roadway through
Liberty County has been used
by travelers since before the
Ghost Town of Sunbury, Georgia
Georgia Town of the Revolution
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: May 12, 2013
American Revolution in Georgia
Fort Morris State Historic Site
British troops tried to take Fort
Morris in 1778, but were
rebuffed by Colonel John
McIntosh who challenged
them to "Come and take it!"
The site of Sunbury is a quiet
coastal neighborhood today,
but interpretive markers and a
Liberty Trail kiosk help visitors
learn more about the town
and its history.
Sunbury, a seaport on the Medway River, is
one of Georgia's most famous "dead" or lost
Founded in 1758, the original town had 496
lots arranged according to an orderly plan
around three large squares. The town as
platted was located on part of 500 acres that
had been granted to Mark Carr by King
George II on October 4, 1757.
The lots of the town covered around 200
acres and were arranged around three
squares - Church, King's and Meeting. As
many as five wharves lined the Medway River.
Exactly how big the town grew is uncertain,
but there is little doubt that it rivaled nearby
Savannah for a time before beginning a slow
decline. At its height, archaeologist Daniel T.
Elliott, estimates that perhaps 200 of
Sunbury's nearly 500 lots were occupied.
Many of the original residents were
Congregationalists who moved down from
Dorchester, South Carolina, and the city of
the same name in Massachusetts. Other
early residents included store owners, dock
workers, sailors and practitioners of
numerous different trades.
By the eve of the American Revolution in
1774, Sunbury was at its height and boasted
perhaps 1,000 residents. The second largest
port on the lower Atlantic Coast, it was
second only to Savannah in size. Coastal
schooners and ocean-going ships left
Sunbury via St. Catherines Sound carrying
cargoes of timber, rice, corn, indigo and other
The higher needs of the community were
served by a Congregationalist church
founded in 1763-1765 with Rev. James
Edwards as its pastor. A second church was
established by the denomination a few miles
to the west in Midway.
The famed naturalist William Bartram
stopped in Sunbury on his way south to
Florida in 1773:
There are about one hundred houses in the
town neatly built of wood frame having
pleasant Piasas [i.e. piazzas] around them.
The inhabitants are genteel and wealthy,
either Merchants or Planters from the Country
who resort here in the Summer and Autumn,
to partake of the Salubrious Sea Breeze,
Bathing & sporting on the Sea Islands.
The first efforts to fortify the Sunbury vicinity
actually predate the founding of the town
itself. Captain Mark Carr, who later was
instrumental in the founding of Sunbury, built
a fortified plantation in the vicinity in 1741.
Known as Carr's Fort, this outpost was
attacked by Indians on March 18, 1741.
Several people were killed and the plantation
was looted. While no one is exactly sure of
the location of Carr's Fort, there is some
evidence that it might have been located
within the boundaries of today's Fort Morris
State Historic Site.
In 1756 the residents of Sunbury, which by
then was a growing town, learned that white
men had killed some Creek Indians. On
September 20 of that year they started work
on a new fort "at Captain Mark Carr's."
On July 11 of the following year, 1757, the
citizens built four artillery batteries around
Sunbury, which they armed with the 8 cannon
available in the town. Despite several
alarms, however, the feared Creek attack
In 1775, casting their lots with the Patriots in
the developing American Revolution, the
people of Sunbury drove off a customs
collector from the town. That same year the
Continental Congress ordered the formation
of a Georgia Battalion of Continental Troops
under Colonel Lachlan McIntosh. The force
was stationed at Sunbury, which became a
base for several failed attacks on English
East Florida just to the South.
The British retaliated for these invasions in
1779 by launching a major two-pronged
attack on Georgia. This invasion ended at
Fort Morris, a new fort built at Sunbury, when
its commander, Colonel John McIntosh,
defiantly told the British to "come and take it!"
when they demanded his surrender. They
decided to leave instead.
Please click here for more information on
Fort Morris State Historic Site.
The British eventually returned and this time,
with a different officer in command, Fort
Morris fell on January 9, 1779. The fort and
town were taken over by the British, who held
them until September of that year when the
forces at Sunbury were ordered to Savannah.
During their time at Sunbury, the British
appear to have held prisoners of war there.
Patriot leader George Walton, one of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence,
had been wounded and captured when the
British took Savannah in 1778. Records
indicate he was held as a prisoner of war at
Sunbury for a time.
After the evacuation of Sunbury in September
1779, the town became sort of a no man's
land between the two sides. From time to
time British troops went there and from time
to time American troops raided the town.
Neither side, however, tried to permanently
The American Revolution spelled the death
of Sunbury. Although the town revived after
the close of the war, it never regained its
former glory and began a slow decline.
Hurricanes damaged the town in 1804 and
1824 and the British threatened again during
the War of 1812. Fort Defiance, a more
compact earthwork was built on the site of
Fort Morris as a bulwark against the British,
but the feared attack by them never came.
By the time of the Civil War, very little was left
of the once prosperous port town of Sunbury.
Confederate troops occupied the town early
in the war and Union troops camped there
near the end of Sherman's March to the Sea.
No battles, however, were fought at Sunbury.
Sunbury today is a vanished town. All that
remains are the Sunbury Cemetery and
several roads that still follow their original
paths. Fort Morris and Fort Defiance are
preserved at Fort Morris State Historic Site.
To visit Sunbury, stop first at Fort Morris State
Historic Site. It is open Thursday - Saturday
and is at 4559 Fort Morris Road, Midway,
Georgia. Upon leaving the fort, turn right on
Fort Morris Road and drive the short distance
to its intersection with Brigantine Dunmoor
Road and Village Drive. There you will see
historic markers and a kiosk that tell the story
of the historic ghost town.
After viewing this, continue onto Brigantine
Dunmoor for a few hundred yards and then
turn left on Sunbury Road. A marker there
tells the story of this historic roadway that has
been in use since before the American
After driving a short distance up Sunbury
Road, turn right onto Dutchman's Cove Road
and follow it a few hundred yards to the
historic Sunbury Cemetery. The burial ground
is open to the public during daylight hours
and is free to visit.
Original Sunbury streets are
still visible at Church Square,
which is on the right side of
this photo. Homes once lined
the left side of the street.
Medway River at Sunbury
The Medway once provided a
way for ships and schooners
to reach the Sunbury wharves.